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Jack Pumpkinhead's Day in Court

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"Jack Pumpkinhead's Day in Court" is a non-canonical Oz short story written by J. L. Bell. It was published in Oz-story Magazine No. 5 in 1999, after winning the Frederick E. Otto Award for the best Oz fiction of 1998, a competition sponsored by The International Wizard of Oz Club.

In Bell's story, Jack Pumpkinhead comes to Ozma's Royal Palace in the Emerald City while the Girl Ruler is away. Jack stubbornly insists on filling in for his "father" in settling disputes among the citizens of Oz. Jellia Jamb and other palace personnel are surprised by Jack's uncharacteristic behavior; they suspect that his newest carved head was selected before it was ripe, causing him to act "sour and hardheaded."

Unable to dissuade Jack from his plan, Jellia, the Frogman, and Omby Amby try to manage Jack's performance as a mediator. Through muddles and misunderstandings, Jack is surprisingly effective. In the story's climax, Jack settles a border dispute between two difficult neighbors: he sprinkles the fence separating their properties with what he thinks is the Powder of Life (it's actually powdered sugar for Jellia's baking), and commands the fence to move to where it should rightfully be. The fence, of course, stays exactly where it is; problem solved.

Bell is notably successful with the puns that are a hallmark of Oz prose and humor; his story is at some points almost a tissue of continuous punning.

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